Rare pre-series example
1960 Maserati 3500 GT Spyder
Coachwork by Carrozzeria Vignale
Chassis no. AM101.775
Engine no. AM101.775
3,485cc DOHC Twin-Plug Inline 6-Cylinder Engine
3 Weber Twin-Choke Carburetors
217 bhp at 5,500 rpm
5-Speed Manual Transmission
Independent Front Suspension - Live Rear Axle
Front Disc - Rear Drum Brakes
•One of some 20 known surviving 'pre-series'cars
•Desirable early long bonnet version
•Rare 'Verde Pavone' colour from new
•Delivered new to Dr. Alberto Fassio
Despite numerous racetrack successes that included Juan Manuel Fangio's fifth World Championship - at the wheel of a 250F - and runner-up spot in the World Sportscar Championship with the fabulous 450S, both in 1957, the marque's most successful season, Maserati was by that time facing a bleak future. Its parent company's financial difficulties eventually forced a withdrawal from racing and Maserati's survival strategy for the 1960s centred on establishing the company as a producer of road cars. The Modena marque's new era began in 1957 with the launch of the Touring-bodied 3500 GT, its first road model built in significant numbers. A luxury '2+2', the 3500 GT drew on Maserati's competition experience, employing a tubular chassis frame and an engine derived from the 350S sports car unit of 1956. Its designer was none other than Giulio Alfieri, creator of the immortal Tipo 60/61 'Birdcage' sports-racer and the man responsible for developing the 250F into a World Championship winner. The twin-overhead-camshaft, six-cylinder engine was a close relative of that used in the 250F and developed around 220bhp. Built initially with drum brakes and a four-speed gearbox, the 3500 GT was gradually improved, gaining five speeds, front disc brakes and, finally, all-disc braking.
A car possessing such impeccable antecedents not unnaturally attracted the attention of Italy's finest carrozzerie: Allemano, Bertone and Frua all created bodies for the 3500 GT chassis. Most coupés were the work of Touring, while all but one (a Frua-bodied example) of the much less common Spyder version were the work of Carrozzeria Vignale. Introduced in 1959, Vignale's Maserati 3500 GT Spyder was the creation of Giovanni Michelotti, at that time the company's star designer. Built on a slightly shorter wheelbase - 250cm as opposed to 260cm - than the coupé and constructed of steel panels rather than the closed car's aluminium, the Spyder lasted in production until 1964, by which time 242 (some sources say 245) cars had been made, representing a little over 10% of 3500 GT production.
The Vignale Spyder made its international debut on 10th November 1959 at the Turin Motor Show, where Dr Alberto Fassio was captivated by Maserati's new soft-top and placed an order for one. Son of shipping magnate Ernesto Fassio, Alberto was one of Genoa's wealthiest residents, and while he would take delivery of the car offered here (chassis number '101.775'), there was a second example in the family, as his brother, Giorgio, owned the pre-production prototype, '101.504C'.
Factory records show that '101.775' was ordered with the following special features: a floor-hinged control pedals (preferred to the standard hanging pedals), tip-up seats, foot-activated headlight switch, fire extinguisher, and Borrani wire wheels shod with Continental Super Record tyres. On 11th January 1960, the official Maserati dealer Automar wrote to the factory on Dr Fassio's behalf requesting that the car be finished in black, and also specified pigskin upholstery, a cream soft-top, and a special exhaust system. Following exchanges between Automar and Maserati, Dr Fassio revised his order, opting instead for the special option Verde Pavone (Peacock Green) paintwork and black leather interior trim with a matching canvas soft-top. He also requested the following additional features: Champion spark plugs, Gerico horns, Lucas headlights, and an Autovox radio.
Carrozzeria Vignale completed '101.775' on 8th June 1960, later than anticipated because of the work entailed in repositioning the control pedals, and Maserati immediately issued an invoice for Lire 5,130,000. A very early production example, the Fassio car has a number of distinctive features, the most notable being a long bonnet extending to the base of the windscreen. Maserati maintained the Vignale Spyder until April 1962 when it was sold to a new owner in Rome. The Maserati then passed through the hands of a succession of Italian owners until 1983, by which time it was owned by Luigi Chilò of Castelfranco. A list of the owners may be found in Walter Bäumer's book, 'Maserati 3500 GT Spyder by Vignale' (photocopied extract on file).
A comprehensive restoration was carried out in the late 1980s, with Carrozzeria Garuti Elis of Reggio Emilia responsible for renovating the bodywork while Pietro Cremonini at Carrozzeria Sports Car repainted the Maserati in its original Verde Pavone colour scheme. Tappezzeria Luppi then re-trimmed the interior in tan leather. The mechanical rebuild was entrusted to Maserati specialist Franco Tralli of Modena. '101.775' was then registered as car number '001' with the Registro Maserati (see 'Maserati 3500 GT Spyder by Vignale').
Forming part of an important US collection of coachbuilt Maseratis since 2003, this Vignale Spyder has benefited from ongoing careful maintenance and been the subject of continued historical research by marque authority, Adolfo Orsi (see file). A ZF 5-Speed transmission, as is correct for the later 3500 GT's, has been installed to utilize the powerful DOHC Twin-Plug 6-Cylinder engine to its fullest. During 2015/2016, the car was again refinished in Verde Pavone and benefited from further works, including cosmetic attention to the interior and engine bay, at a cost in excess of $100,000, resulting in its present superb condition. A worthy rival to contemporary offerings from Aston Martin, Ferrari, and Mercedes-Benz, Maserati's 3500 GT Vignale Spider ranks among the 1960s' most glamorous open sports cars. As one of some 20 known surviving 'pre-series' cars, '101.775' is particularly rare and desirable.
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